A solid Day Eight of Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp that saw the team back in pads. That should remain the story for tomorrow’s Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe High School. Expecting a monster crowd there. But until then, let’s talk about what went down Thursday.
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Camp Notes (Day Eight)
– Injury roundup. Not practicing today were: RB Najee Harris (foot), S Miles Killebrew (pec), WR Chase Claypool (right shoulder), TE Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), LB Marcus Allen (hamstring), S Karl Joseph (personal), DT Cam Heyward (vet off day), OLB T.J. Watt (vet off day), and DT Larry Ogunjobi (presumed vet day). CB Levi Wallace (illness) worked only in individual sessions. Freiermuth and Claypool should return no later than Monday while Killebrew seems to be making some progress, working in stretch line and doing arm circles, suggesting his pec injury is healing. He also did some backpedaling and planting/driving at about half-speed on the side later in the day.
Minkah Fitzpatrick came off NFI today and practiced in individual work but not team, donning black sweatpants throughout the session. But he’s been officially cleared which is obviously great news. NT Tyson Alualu (knee) remains on PUP but worked up a healthy sweat on a hot and humid afternoon, hitting a blocking dummy on the side during special teams sessions. That’s a good sign. Of course, fresh off his deal, WR Diontae Johnson practiced in full. OT Chukwuma Okorafor returned after missing yesterday for unknown reasons.
Cam Sutton left practice mid-way through. Don’t 100% know the issue but I would give it the hockey “lower-body” term here. Tweaked it in seven shots and didn’t look right the rest of the day. OL Chaz Green and RB Mataeo Durant were carted off towards the end of practice with unknown ailments. May have been the heat. FS Damontae Kazee jammed his left hand/wrist during a special teams drill and needed a few minutes for trainers to tape him up but he finished practice. Which is good because the safety group is thin right now, though Fitzpatrick should join them soon and Karl Joseph will come back in the next couple of days.
– On one early snap in warmups, Diontae Johnson was aligned inside with George Pickens and Cody White as the outside receivers in 11 personnel. Johnson will still be an X receiver but could move around this year with the slot role more up in the air than it has been with JuJu Smith-Schuster gone.
– Early in practice, linemen snapping to quarterbacks included a list of familiar names: Nate Gilliam, Mason Cole, John Leglue, Chris Owens, and J.C. Hassenauer.
– Receivers again working on run blocking in one drill today. Heavy emphasis under new WRs Coach Frisman Jackson and it’s the thing that’s stuck out to me the most under his coaching.
– In “on-air” drills, Connor Heyward made a nifty one-handed snag running an out ‘n up route. He’s got good hands, though has dealt with the occasional ugly drop.
– George Pickens also double-catches a little too often. He has good hands and hey, receivers won’t catch them all cleanly over this long process, but he had one today in warmups and it’s popped up a handful of times watching him. He’s got great tracking and ability to recover but his smaller hands (8 3/4 inches) may present a minor problem.
– No punts but punt return line during ST session: Gunner Olszewski, Steven Sims, Calvin Austin III, Tyler Vaughns, and Tyler Snead all fielded punts during the period.
– In a skeleton kick return session, Benny Snell and Cody White worked as first-team upmen with Gunner Olszewski the kick returner, though there was no kick (Pressley Harvin fake swung through a football with Olsewski tossing a football he was carrying into the air to simulate him catching it to return).
– Let’s talk team sessions.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Kendrick Green in at LG. Derrek Tuszka and Alex Highsmith the OLBs. Ahkello Witherspoon at LCB, Cam Sutton at RCB, Arthur Maulet at NCB. Mitch Trubisky in at QB. Okorafor in at RT. Benny Snell in at RB with Harris remaining out. Trubisky completes to George Pickens on a quick slant, who is pretty open and easily scores. Cam Sutton slipped and may have gotten hurt here. Montravius Adams got pressure up the middle. He and Chris Wormley were the two DTs.
2. Okie defensive line of Wormley, Adams, and Isaiahh Loudermilk. “We gotta wake up D,” someone yells to the defense after a bad first rep. Anthony McFarland in at RB. Throw for Diontae Johnson in the back of the end zone is well incomplete.
3. Miles Boykin, Anthony Miller, and George Pickens the three receivers on the field. Snell back in at running back and tosses left. Stopped short of the goal line by a couple defenders and the defense makes the stop in this live-tackle session. Center Mason Cole a little slow to get up here but he was alright. Walked it off.
4. Trubisky still in at QB. Pressure forces a quick throw left side hot for Benny Snell in the left flat but he never got his head around. Sutton had the chance for the INT but dropped it. Sutton still didn’t look right here.
5. Mason Rudolph in at QB, Jaylen Warren at RB working as the #3 RB. Joe Haeg in at LT. Derek Watt aligned Y-off in a two-point stance. Rudolph fade for Boykin left sideline but James Pierre plays it well and breaks the throw up.
6. Empty formation. Steven Sims as the “X.” Blown coverage here and Rudolph hits a wide open Jace Sternberger for the score with two defenders crashing down on Boykin’s slant in front. Easy score.
7. John Leglue at LT. Kenny Pickett gets a rep. Throws his best ball of camp, a great fade that leads WR Cody White into the back right corner for the score. Great play. Defense wins the day 4-3 but the offense ends on a good note.
Second Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 46. Myles Jack and Robert Spillane at ILB. Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton on the outside with Arthur Maulet in the slot. Tuszka and Highsmith the OLBs. Trubisky boots left and hits an open Zach Gentry for a gain of 14, Gentry falling and getting up to run and finish the play at the end.
2. Wormley/Adams/Loudermilk the down linemen. 12 personnel. Power run, James Daniels pulling right to left. Benny Snell up the middle. Damontae Kazee fills the alley and cuts down Snell’s knees after a gain of four.
3. Devin Bush in at ILB. Anthony McFarland left side. Bends the run back right and Devin Bush finds him and makes the stop.
4. 21 personnel. McFarland again up the middle. Alex Highsmith in on the tackle with James Pierre setting the edge. Someone, I believe Cam Heyward, yelled out, “Good job, JP” as the play was ending.
5. Justin Layne and Linden Stephens 2nd team CBs. James Pierre 1st-team with Levi Wallace not in full. Mason Rudolph under center. Derek Watt gets a carry right side, Delontae Scott making the tackle after a run of three. Robert Spillane blowing this one up and helping to bounce the run on a well-time run blitz.
6. Rudolph working from shotgun. Completion to Anthony Miller for a gain of 11 against Justin Layne on a dig. Good pass pro by Jaylen Warren.
7. Warren carry right side. Justin Layne and Donovan Stiner converge on the stop and one of them knocks the ball out, though the offense recovers.
8. 11 personnel. Jet run to Steven Sims running left to right. Delontae Scott isn’t fooled, these plays haven’t been very effective, though Scott isn’t able to finish and make the tackle. Ulysees Gilbert III cleans things up at the one.
9. T.D. Moultry at LOLB. Carlins Platel comes from his slot spot on the right side and tackles Master Teague at the line of scrimmage.
10. Rudolph in at QB. Gain of two for Teague right side. Mark Robinson fills and makes the tackle.
11. Mataeo Durant power run left side. Tuzar Skipper works free and records the tackle for loss, a loss of three.
12. Kenny Pickett in at QB. Durant left side. Robinson in on the stop again after a gain of one.
Third Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 23. Damontaze Kazee in at FS. Kendrick Green at LG, Justin Layne at LCB, James Pierre at RCB. Trubisky in at QB. Wormley/Adams at DT. Witherspoon at LCB and Maulet in the slot. Diontae Johnson in the slot with Cody White and George Pickens on the outside.
Toss left to Snell with LT Dan Moore Jr. pulling out in space. James Pierre gets off him and pops Snell fairly hard. Moore isn’t happy and gives Pierre a hard shove down.
2. Spillane and Bush at ILB. Alex Highsmith hand down as the RDE. Trubisky looks for Connor Heyward right side but Arthur Maulet dives and disrupts the throw, forcing the incompletion.
3. Anthony McFarland Jr. at RB. George Pickens and Gunnzer Olszewski at WR. Three outside linebacker package, have seen it in past years but not this camp, with Highsmith, Tuszka, and Genard Avery (who has played inside and outside) alongside Myles Jack. Pass complete to Diontae Johnson for a gai of five. Alex Highsmith with a good spin move inside that forced Dan Moore to seal him down hard. Chris Wormley was looping around and got free with Moore not able to pass Highsmith off to the LG. Would-be pressure in a game.
4. Montravius Adams and Carlos Davis the DTs. Tuzar Skipper and Genard Avery the OLBs. Trubisky scrambles right and fires deep right sideline for Calvin Austin. Devin Bush isn’t in his hip pocket but has good coverage and the pass sails in front incomplete.
5. Offensive line of: Chaz Green-Kevin Dotson-J.C. Hassenauer-John Leglue-Trent Scott. Pony set with McFarland on the field. Leal-Mondeaux-Loudermilk the DL. Rudolph complete to McFarland in the right flat for a gain of four.
6. Tre Norwood and Donovan Stiner the safety pairing. Rudolph complete to Boykin for six with Layne covering.
7. Kenny Pickett in. Complete left side to Steven Sims for five.
8. Warren split out wide left and Pickett throws a screen his way. Buddy Johnson creates some disruption but the ball still goes through Warren’s hands, a drop.
9. Third team OL of: Jordan Tucker-Chris Owens-Nate Gilliam-Jake Dixon-Joe Haeg. Pickett complete to Tyler Snead right side for five. Linden Stephens with a half-decent pop into him at the end.
10. Doug Costin and Donovan Jeter the DTs. Pickett complete to Olszewski on a curl for seven. Stephens covering.
11. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Weird QB rotation today. Throw right side underthrown by Tyler Vaughns tracks it and makes the grab for a 15-yard gain, wrestling with a corner I don’t have listed at the end of the play. But it’s a catch.
12. Tre Norwood free on a FS blitz for a would-be sack. Rudolph ends up firing the football away.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 24. Snell carry up the middle for three.
2. James Pierre the RCB. Trubisky in at QB. Snell left side for two, Devin Bush tagging him. Witherspoon chased the ball hard and knocked it out at the end. Ball security not as good as it needs to be for the RBs today.
3. Trubisky boots left and looks for Diontae Johnson. But James Pierre drives downhill and breaks up the throw.
4. Trubisky complete to Warren in the left flat for one. Highsmith pops him at the end.
5. Rudolph comes in. Whistle at the start and it takes a second for the offense to reset. Moultry in at ROLB. Rudolph under center. Complete right flat to TE Kevin Rader for just a gain of one, Tuszka covering and applying the tag. Flag thrown that Rader stepped on but didn’t get banana-peeled.
6. Rudolph under center. Warren carry left side. Good push by the offensive line but Carlos Davis gets hands on him after a gain of six,
7. Pickett in the game. Complete on Y-stick to Connor Heyward for a gain of five. Buddy Johnson on the tag/stop.
8. Skipper and Moultry the EDGE rushers. Johnson and Gilbert the ILBs. Pickett under center. Complete to Miller left side for a gain of ten off playaction. Really good read and progression from Pickett starting right and working back left.
9. Rudolph now in at QB. Hits Olszewski on a crosser for a gain of 11, Tre Norwood providing the stop.
10. Jace Sternberger and Kevin Rader the TEs in 12 personnel. Pickett complete to Durant right side for a couple, call it four. Skipper at his LOLB spot beat Trent Scott badly inside and got pressure.
11. McFarland jet to the right. Not a live drill but McFarland shows his speed and scoots past Delontae Scott for a gain of ten, running into the end zone with Teague, finishing out each chance he gets, jogging into the end zone to dap McFarland up.
12. Durant toss right. Platel on the stop after two. Sure looked like Trent Scott left early the last two reps, this one and play #9.
– Notes from some 1v1 coverage drills, a mix of backs, receivers, and wide receivers.
WR + TE + RB vs LB/DB 1v1s
1. Diontae Johnson, welcome back. Great release to beat and stack Ahkello Witherspoon vertically and make the grab deep down the right sideline.
2. Jace Sternberger great spinning grab on a wheel route working over Robert Spillane. Good rep.
3. Justin Layne guesses/anticipates the route and jumps curl to George Pickens, breaking on the ball and swatting it away.
4. Good post/corner route by Connor Heyward against Devin Bush but the throw is out in front and incomplete deep downfield.
5. Nice route by Anthony Miller, who does a good job in these settings getting on DB’s toes, and Linden Stephens shows hip stiffness trying to turn and run with him. Miller separates and makes the grab over the middle.
6. Ulysees Gilbert III and Jaylen Warren collide at the top of the route. Warren bursts outside and makes a nice catch while tucking the ball upfield all in one motion.
7. Flag from the refs still on-hand thrown on LB Robert Spillane as Jace Sternberger breaks outside. Sternberger still gets away and makes the catch.
8. Nice double-move, a stop ‘n go, by Cody White against Cam Sutton, burning him deep downfield for the catch. Unusual to see Sutton look that slow, White isn’t a speedster, so it makes sense Sutton didn’t finish out the day.
9. Anthony McFarland with a great catch, high-pointing the ball on a wheel route and taking it away from Myles Jack, who met him at the top. But McFarland won the 50/50 ball.
10. Miles Boykin crosses Justin Layne’s face and beats him inside on a slant.
11. Nice backshoulder throw and grab caught by Connor Heyward against Damontae Kazee.
12. Good drive and breakup by James Pierre on Anthony Miller’s curl route.
13. Benny Snell makes a falling grab against Myles Jack. Jack called for a flag but Snell still hauls the ball in.
14. Miles Boykin breaks down on a curl and Linden Stephens can’t match him. Easy grab.
15. Snell catch on a quick out against Jack.
16. Sternberger to the corner working against Donovan Stiner. Sternberger a good route and nice throw with him making the catch, though it fell into his chest and shifted and nearly popped up. But he held on.
17. Chris Steele super grabby on Cody White and both officials observing throw flags on him.
18. McFarland slow off the line and hits Bush with a stutter step and then explodes vertical while finding the ball and making a diving catch moving to his right while running down the left sideline. Good route and finish.
19. Diontae Johnson sells vertical and runs James Pierre off before breaking down and making the grab.
20. Good release by Sternberger to beat Spillane but I believe the pass was overthrown/off-line and incomplete.
– OL/DL results.
1. DeMarvin Leal bull rushes Dan Moore Jr, who uses his Pat Meyer-taught hop step to try to re-anchor. Did alright.
2. Isaiahh Loudermilk sheds Kevin Dotson.
3. Montravius Adams rip to spin with the latter move coming late against Mason Cole.
4. Henry Mondeaux creates a little movement on a bull rush against James Daniels but Daniels stays square and engaged.
5. Inside spin and rip by Mondeaux gets past Daniels this time.
6. Chukwuma Okorafor seals Derrek Tuszka up the arc.
7. Moore mirrors Genard Avery’s inside spin. Moore with some forward body lean but makes the job.
8. Moore with another win against Avery.
9. And Moore sweeps the series, staying in front of Avery.
10. Loudermilk falls into Dotson.
11. They go again. Loudermilk with more success on his bull with a late rip move.
12. Adams bull rushes Cole.
13. Daniels with a good win against Leal.
14. Leal gets revenge, winning quickly with a swipe to beat Daniels.
15. Okorafor stays in front of Tuszka’s spin but seemed to open the inside lane a little bit too much.
16. Tuskza ends up on the ground against Okorafor.
17. Tuszka responds with a good bullrush to move Okorafor back.
18. Leglue seals Scott up the edge though Scott turned the corner very late.
19. Decent battle between Kendrick Green and Khalil Davis. Davis got a step late.
20. Rep of the day with Khalil Davis forklifting Kendrick Green back for the win. A very excited Davis celebrates on his way back to the line.
21. Carlos Davis rips past J.C. Hassenauer.
22. Davis swipes past Hassenauer this time.
23. Don’t have full notes on these final three reps but Leal did have a quick win against someone believe it was Leglue.
Fifth Team Session
1. Red zone work on the defense’s 21. Trubisky in at QB, working under center. 11 personnel. Snell carry for five yards.
At this point, there was lighting in the distance and the horn blew to end the day 11 plays early. Still a solid day of work and I’m sure players were happy to get out of the humidity and pending rain.
– Get asked all the time but yes, I thought today was Kenny Pickett’s best day. Perhaps he was the best QB of the day. The seven shots throw to Cody White and the progression read completion to Miller off playaction were two high-level moments. More of this from Pickett would put him back into the starting QB battle. Just one day but a good one and I came away encouraged.
– Weird splitting of reps today with Rudolph occasionally jumping in for a snap only to be replaced by Pickett the next. Not sure what the plan even was…a backup coming off the bench on a moment’s notice?
– Jaylen Warren, not quite as strong today. Fumble and a dropped pass though he had once nice pass pro pickup. Ball security not ideal for Steelers’ backs today either.
– Anthony McFarland and Jace Sternberger had arguably their best practices of the summer. McFarland looked great in receiving drills and flashed his speed while Sternberger was a crisp route runner who made a couple of impressive grabs and scored in seven shots, though he was wide open. Good days for them.
– Kevin Rader had drop issues early in his career but he’s seemed to have cleaned that issue up. Last two days, making tough grabs above his head/frame.
– I really don’t get why Trent Scott even sniffed first-team reps. Must be Pat Meyer’s doing. Scott shouldn’t be anywhere near the field this season. Joe Haeg isn’t elite but I’d take him in a heartbeat over Scott.
– DeMarvin Leal really looks bigger than he did in school, which makes sense since he’s up about 20 pounds. But he’s kept his quickness and ability to win as a pass rusher which is impressive and encouraging.
– Devin Bush looked better in team session though his 1v1 coverage work leaves a lot to be desired. Not asking for much. One win, one good rep the last two days is all I’m asking for. I get it’s hard for the defender but other guys have made plays.
– Couple of CBs who stepped up today. Active day for Carlins Platel and James Pierre. Pierre is an up-and-down player but when he’s on, he’s good. Today was one of those days. Multiple pass breakups and good run defense on the edge.
– Rookie Chris Steele has length and finds the ball but he’s very grabby and a penalty waiting to happen when he gets in trouble. Linden Stephens is too stiff-hipped to deal with underneath routes and I think he lacks long speed for stuff over the top. Probably on short list of top-five cuts less than two weeks from now.
Saint Vincent Snapshot
Minkah Fitzpatrick and Diontae Johnson (presumably) talking about all the money they now have.
Twitter Camp Question
Not a question but a worthy comment. And I agree. Hasn’t secured a spot, no one has, and no one will for awhile, but McFarland is in decent position. Especially if he has more days like today.
Random Steelers’ Fact
What Steelers’ QB was sacked the most in one game? It’s not Ben Roethlisberger. The “honor” goes to Ron Smith, sacked ten times in a 1966 30-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
George Carlin’s Quote Of The Day
“Here’s a bumper sticker I’d like to see: “We are the proud parents of a child who’s self-esteem is sufficient that he doesn’t need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.”